International media freedom watchdogs said they were “appalled” by the recent brutal attack on Ukrainian journalist Vadym Komarov and urged the country’s authorities to do their utmost to ensure that it does not go unpunished.
In a statement on May 7, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that Ukrainian authorities “should leave no stone unturned” in identifying the motive of the attack on Komarov and bringing the assailants to justice.
Gulnoza Said, CPJ Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, said that her organization was "appalled by the brutal assault," which she said comes amid "a range of threats faced by investigative reporters in Ukraine."
Komarov was hospitalized and underwent unspecified surgery following the May 4 attack in the city of Cherkasy, about 200 kilometers south of Kyiv, and as of May 7 remained in a coma.
Police are treating the case as attempted murder, but did not say whether Komarov was targeted for his reporting.
In Paris, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that Komarov is well known in Cherkasy for his coverage of “local corruption, real estate issues, and administrative incompetence.”
Sergiy Tomilenko, head of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, said that Komarov had been investigating official corruption in local sports schools prior to the assault.
The OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Harlem Desir, said that the attack against an investigative journalist known for his reporting on corruption “is particularly alarming and cannot remain unpunished.”
“Quickly identifying its perpetrator and any instigators is the only way to dispel this murder attempt’s chilling effect,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
In its statement, RSF said Komarov was shot in 2016 and was beaten the following year “while participating in a protest…against a company that executes public works contracts.”
Ukraine is ranked 102nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
Investigative journalists in Ukraine have recently faced “surveillance, harassment, and assault from government and private entities,” according to the CPJ.